Bangalore/ New Delhi: ISKCONs Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides midday meals to 4.43 lakh children every day in Karnataka, has been asked by the HD Kumaraswamy government to add onion and garlic to the food it serves. Why? Because the state government believes these two ingredients will significantly boost the nutritional value and taste of the foods served to the children. Even if that is against the religious belief of the organisation. And as if those are the only ingredients that can boost nutitional value!

This controversy has been cooked up by the JD(S) government of which the Congress is an ally. 

According to the rules and beliefs of the Akshaya Patra Foundation, only ‘satvik’ ('pure') foods are prepared and served. Onion and garlic don't find a place in that category; they are considered 'tamasik' (inducing negativity) and are hence not included in the meals served by the foundation.   

As a result of the harsh order, the foundation has discontinued its partnership with the Karnataka government for the midday meal scheme, refusing to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU), reported DNA. 

"Including onion and garlic not just adds nutrition, but also improves the taste. Considering this, we asked the foundation to follow the state menu, but they have not yet replied to our letter," MR Maruti, joint director of Karnataka's midday meal scheme told The New Indian Express. Unfortunately, for the JD(S)-Congress government of Karnataka 'taste' is of much greater value than the religious beliefs of people.

Akshaya Patra made its point very clear in a detailed statement. "We would like to clarify that our freshly-cooked meals are in compliance with the nutrition norms prescribed by the MHRD and government of Karnataka. It is our constant endeavour to contribute to the government's efforts in promoting good health and nutrition among children which is essential for their holistic growth and development,” the foundation said. 

If the meals are true to expected nutritional standards, as claimed by the Akshaya Patra, what was the need for the government to impose this gastronomical fatwa?

Not so long ago, there was a rumour of chicken not being allowed to be sold for a month in Greater Noida during the saavan season to respect the religious sensibilities of people. Though a rumour, there was a collective outrage against this. When a proposal was floated to ban animal slaughter for a few days to respect the sentiments of Jains in Mumbai, there was open resistance. A few politicians took to the streets and ate chicken tandoori in an act of defiance against the ‘suggestion’. But today, when someone is forced to eat or serve something that is against the core of their religious beliefs, there is a strange silence, leave aside defiance.

But support did pour in on social media. People called out the double standards of the JD(S)-Congress government.

But, away from social media, there has been a staid silence. Who will stand up for the rights of those subscribing to the belief system represented by the ISKCON and Akshay Patra?